UBM Canon pursues aggressive strategy to meld its mobile event app with its live shows

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In late April, one week before the BIOMEDevice, Design & Manufacturing New England and Electronics New England event in Boston, UBM Canon introduced a mobile event application to enhance the co-located program's value for exhibitors, sponsors and attendees before, during and after the show. However, the event app was only downloaded by 25% of individuals from 2,000 attending companies, according to Amy Lindstrum, director of business operations at UBM Canon, which is owned by UBM. (She would not divulge the total number of attendees.) “It's not as great as we would have liked,” said Lindstrum, who attributed the low percentage of downloads to the relatively short period between the debut of the mobile app and the kickoff of the physical event. UBM Canon has ample room to boost that penetration rate: 70% of attendees to UBM Canon events now own smartphones. So for the five co-located UBM Canon events in Chicago in June, the company “anticipates” that it will release the mobile event app one month before the live event, Lindstrum said. (The co-located event features Assembly & Automation Technology Expo and Contract Manufacturing Expo.) By releasing the app a month before the show, Lindstrum said, UBM Canon will be able to better communicate with its attendees via email and provide the appropriate content as the live show draws closer. The change is one aspect of a new campaign by UBM to align mobile event apps with its entire events portfolio, which in 2011 represented 41% of the media company's total revenue. In March, UBM subsidiary UBM Studios launched a mobile event application, which includes native applications for the iPad, iPhone, Android and BlackBerry. It's also accessible in a Web version. The plan is to scale the mobile event app across all UBM's 400 trade shows by 2013, said Michael Kushner, VP-digital media strategy at UBM Studios. “A lot of media companies that do events have still not cracked the egg on how you make money on mobile,” Kushner said. “We really drill down into all the features and benefits, and how you monetize these apps with enhanced listings, mobile showrooms for the exhibitors, push messages, banners and so forth.” UBM's mobile event app features product and exhibitor directories, interactive mapping and scheduling. It also includes news, blogs, links to social networking channels such as Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter, and access to YouTube videos. Attendees can communicate about the show's contents via email and text messaging. Crowdsourcing tools such as live polls, surveys and questions—and a QR code reader—are also available. Following the live event, the show's contents, including keynote speeches and work sessions, are repackaged and distributed on the mobile event app. “It's maybe not 24/7/365-quite yet, but it's certainly three or four months around a two-day show,” Kushner said. “That's a model that our show organizers are interested in for mobile apps. It's a way of connecting with the community beyond just navigation on the show floor.” In addition to banners and sponsored push messages, premium sponsorship options for the event app include exhibitor logos, product listings, downloadable content and highlighted booths on interactive floor plans. Price points for these sponsorships range from $200 to $15,000, Kushner said. Noah Elkin, principal analyst at eMarketer, said that one of the toughest challenges in marketing mobile event apps is maintaining the relevance of the app once the event related to the app has passed. “The baseline is making sure that you're providing the audience at the conference with the content and the tools that they need to enhance their experience during the event,” he said. “That's going to be the most effective way to capture interest and repeat usage of the app.”
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